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Midnight Creeper (1968)

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George Benson

As he delved deeper into commercial soul-jazz and jazz-funk, Lou Donaldson became better at it. While lacking the bite of his hard bop improvisations or the hard-swinging funk of Alligator Bogaloo, Midnight Creeper succeeds where its predecessor, Mr. Shing-A-Ling failed: it offers a thoroughly enjoyable set of grooving, funky soul-jazz. The five songs -- including two originals by Donaldson and one each by Lonnie Smith (who also plays organ on the record), Teddy Vann, and Harold Ousley -- aren't particularly distinguished, but the vibe is important, not the material. And the band -- Donaldson, Smith, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, guitarist George Benson, and drummer Leo Morris -- strikes the right note, turning in a fluid, friendly collection of bluesy funk vamps. Donaldson could frequently sound stilted on his commercial soul-jazz dates, but that's not the case with Midnight Creeper. He rarely was quite as loose on his late-'60s/early-'70s records as he is here, and that's what makes Midnight Creeper a keeper. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine